Parents, guardians called on to ensure safety of children

THE slaying of two young boys on the Flower Hill main road in St James on Monday evening has brought the number of children killed since the start of the year to at least 24, prompting a call by Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison for parents to take more care to protect their little ones.

Gordon Harrison, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday, said that violence against children creates an air of frustration and she encouraged parents to pay more attention to their kids. She said that, at this point in time, all well-thinking Jamaicans should be seeking to tell the police everything they know to help crack cases of child murder.

“As parents and guardians we have to be so vigilant about the protection of our children. Where are they and what circumstances are they exposed to, who are the people around them, what time of night are they on the road or not on the road, and just a number of other ways to improve protection around children.

“All we can do is ensure the systems we have in place work, meaning the investigative processes, the prosecution of persons who are responsible, and just to teach parents preventative strategies they can employ for the protection of their children. Sometimes it feels that we are making strides, but when you have this spate of acts of violence that are very extreme against children, it really leads to frustration setting in,” the children’s advocate said.

On Monday, the latest child victims of murder were students Justin Perry, seven, and nine-year-old Nahcoliva Smith. Both were on their way home from school.

The two boys, along with 26-year-old Tevin Hayle, were killed by gunmen on the Flower Hill main road in the community of Salt Spring in St James while they were passengers in a taxi.

Police reported that between 5:20 pm and 6:30 pm on Monday the taxi was heading from Salt Spring to Montego Bay when Hayle stopped the cab and asked for a ride home. According to police, just as Hayle entered the taxi, a man who was armed with a rifle, emerged from bushes and opened fire at the vehicle, killing the boys and Hayle, who it is believed was the target.

On Tuesday, Dr Kasan Troupe, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, appealed to the perpetrators of crime to stop harming and killing children.

“Our children deserve an opportunity to excel and become their best selves. Stop robbing them of their future. I am hurt by this, and I am disappointed. I am asking for the police to investigate and bring people to justice. This should not be the kind of Jamaica we experience at this time. We need a Jamaica that cares for our children. I am calling on every single Jamaican to stand up against criminality. We should condemn it publicly and privately,” Troupe said during an interview with the Observer.

The Ministry of Education, she said, has already started to mobilise its grief team to provide support for the students and teachers at the Chetwood Memorial Primary School in St James and the families of the two boys.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at the same time, responded to the murder of the two boys with outrage, declaring in a statement that it was time for the society to declare that “enough is enough”.

“Violence in all its forms is abhorrent and must be strongly condemned and punished,” Holness said.

He added: “This barbaric and senseless act of terror demonstrates that gunmen and gangs are a clear and present threat to the foundations of our free and democratic society. Through the wanton use of violence, gangs and gunmen hold entire communities hostage, depriving citizens of their economic livelihood and their rights to move, speak, and associate freely in their communities. They violate the ultimate right of every human being, the right to life.

“However, these gunmen choose to execute their wanton violence indiscriminately in public spaces and on innocent civilians, including children. This indiscriminate and random violence not only creates local fear, but also creates a national feeling of insecurity as the probability of being a victim rises for everyone. These gunmen and gang members are not mere criminals; they are like terrorists and should be treated as such.”

Police statistics show that from January 1 to October 25 there were 1,145 people murdered across the island.